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I must have covered 1968 and the Black Power medal ceremony incident throughout several articles over the past 2 and a half years. Tommie Smith prefers to call it “Silent Gesture”. Everything from my visit to SJSU, Tommie and John Carlos’ bitter feud, Canada’s Harry Jerome’s response to the incident, and even vintage videos from all the rounds thanks to a Peter Norman fan.
People may think Jesse Owens was the groundbreaker, but Tommie Smith and John Carlos did something about it. The demonstration was a brave one, considering the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy earlier in the year (April & June respectively… the Olympics were in October).
It was a defining moment that changed the course of history and the Olympic movement. The raised fists went from “civil rights” issue to the “Black Power” movement in a matter of seconds.
It also begs the question, “Should politics get mixed in the Olympics?”. The answer in 1976 is an astounding YES if you ask Jimmy Carter!
Here is an excellent 1 hour video from BBC FOUR (on YouTube) chopped up into 6, 10 minute segments.
This film looks at what inspired Tommie and John to make their protest, and what happened to them after the Games.
The film features Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, and Bob Beamon among others.
Several books exists about 1968, from the journalists’ point of view to several autobiographies from well known track and field athletes:
- Richard Hoffer – Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
- Amy Bass – Not the Triumph But the Struggle: 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete
- Douglas Hartmann – Race, Culture, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete: The 1968 Olympic Protests and Their Aftermath
- Tommie Smith – Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith
- John Carlos – Why: The Biography of John Carlos With C. D. Jackson, Jr.
- Lee Evans – The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City
And of course there’s the Australian DVD: Salute the Movie [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2.4 Import – Australia ]
Grab a drink, have a seat, and enjoy the movie.
UPDATE: Sorry, the video is no longer on YouTube.